We are delighted to announce that Alzheimer Scotland is our official charity partner for 2021. With our shared purpose of helping the world connect with nature, we will be working with the charity over the course of the next 12 months, raising funds and awareness of its vital work and exploring how we can jointly support outdoor therapy to help those living with dementia as well as their families and carers.
To help find out more about the incredible work Alzheimer Scotland does, we spoke with Caroline Miller, Stakeholder Engagement Lead Alzheimer Scotland, to reveal how we'll be working together over the year ahead.
Caroline Miller, Stakeholder Engagement Lead at Alzheimer Scotland
Can you tell us more about Alzheimer Scotland?
Alzheimer Scotland is Scotland’s leading dementia charity. We offer a wide range of vital services, practical information and emotional support to people living with dementia, their families and carers across Scotland, at every stage of their dementia journey. This includes funding the UK’s only 24 hour Freephone Dementia Helpline (0808 808 3000), Dementia Resource Centres which aim to bring dementia to the high street, and a network of Dementia Advisors who are based throughout Scotland who provide a wealth of support for people throughout their dementia diagnosis - often prior to being diagnosed and, for carers, after the loss of a loved one.
How many people are affected by dementia?
Dementia is one of the biggest health crisis of our time and we know that 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with some form of dementia in their lives, so, sadly the chances are we will all know someone who is affected.
How has the last year impacted Alzheimer Scotland?
As we re-build from the pandemic, partnerships like this are vital to us – not only to fund our work but to help us educate people in our communities about dementia and the hidden impact.
The people we support have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Social isolation, the inability to access formal and support networks, and the lack of respite for carers has left our dementia community at breaking point. We have had to realign our services to support people during this crisis, investing more money into our Helpline to support an increase in calls, moving our groups and activities on to a digital format and, for a very small number of people, providing face-to-face support for those who needed it most. the first lockdown period we saw a 60% increase in calls to our helpline with people in stress and distress.
If we make meaningful connections with nature for people living with dementia, the results are transformative which is why we run many groups and activities throughout Scotland
How important is connecting with nature for those living with dementia?
Dementia is the umbrella term for about 100 illnesses and symptoms, the most common being Alzheimer’s Disease, and presents itself in many different ways including memory loss and changes in mood and behaviour. When this happens, people can become confused and upset and often retreat into themselves away from the world around them. However, the part of the brain that deals with emotional responses remains the same and therefore therapeutic exercises such as music therapy, gardening and walking in the outdoors have such incredible benefits for people living with dementia.
If we make meaningful connections with nature for people living with dementia, the results are transformative which is why we run many groups and activities throughout Scotland including Garden Gatherings, Allotments and Walking Groups. One of our proudest successes in recent years has been our Tipi project.
Can you tell us more about the Tipi project?
In the Cairngorms, our team has set up a Tipi with wood burning stove immersed into the forest to help bring the outdoors in and provide a stimulating environment. The evolutionary and relaxing response people get from socialising around a log fire is intangible. Each month the group tries different activities, learns new skills and takes walks in the surrounding woodlands. Food is heated over the fire, adding to the genuine camping-like experience and there is the ability to have exposure to, and feel, the benefits of the outdoors with the comfort and safety of shelter.
ARRAN Sense of Scotland’s support will help us to roll out the Tipi project into new locations and support our other outdoor therapy groups. It’s fantastic that we have projects that will fit so well with their organisational purpose and will make such a difference to the wellbeing of people living with dementia.
This will be just the start of a year working towards a shared purpose. Over the coming months, we will continue to share updates from our partnership with Alzheimer Scotland and outline how you can get involved too. In the meantime, you can support the charity here and find out more about their incredible work.